(AP) — Kyle Busch drove without the backing of his primary sponsor after an incident last week, then had to start at the back of the pack after changing engines in practice.
Just when his weekend was starting to look a little better, he blew another engine.
One of the most trying weeks of Busch's career took another downturn when a blown engine sent him from third to the garage after 188 laps of Sunday's race at Phoenix International Speedway.
"It's just devastating," Busch said. "To go through turmoil like this, all you can do is group together and pull through, try to persevere and move on."
Busch would certainly like to move on from the past two weeks.
His problems started at last week's Trucks Series race in Texas, when he got frustrated and took out title contender Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution.
Busch said he lost his temper and apologized, but NASCAR parked him for the rest of the weekend at Texas, where he watched Michael McDowell race the No. 18 M&M Toyota in the Sprint Cup Series from atop what should have been his own pit box. He also was fined $55,000 and placed on probation through the end of the year.
M&M's, Busch's primary sponsor, said the car would not run with its primary paint scheme for the final two races, at Phoenix and Homestead, and warned the driver that it would not tolerate any other incidents from him. Owner Joe Gibbs said the polarizing driver still faces further punishment.
During a news conference with Gibbs on Friday, Busch was contrite, apologizing again for losing his cool and saying he hoped to learn a lesson from the ordeal. Later that day, he blew an engine in practice, sending him to the back of the pack for Sunday's race because the team switched engines after inspection.
Once the race started, Busch made his way quickly through the field, moving from 42nd to 16th within the first 60 laps. He kept picking off cars after that, getting to third by the 180th lap of the 312-lap race. His day quickly deteriorated soon after, the engine trouble sending him rocketing back through the field and eventually into the garage.
"Catastrophic engine failure," said Busch, who finished 36th. "It's terrible to have one in a week, let alone two in a weekend. ... It's certainly a tough few weeks and all we can do is look forward to next week at Homestead."
VICKERS VS. KENSETH II
After getting tangled with Matt Kenseth at Martinsville two weeks ago, Brian Vickers said he would get payback.
It didn't happen at Texas last week, but Vickers got his retaliation at Phoenix — even if he says he didn't mean to.
Kenseth started from the pole and led four different times for 49 laps. He was still near the front on lap 178 when he brakes started to fail and he began dropping back. Vickers charged up behind Kenseth and bumped him from behind, sending the No. 17 car into the wall then the garage.
"Obviously, it is retaliation for retaliation, I guess," Kenseth said. "I was out of brakes and I was up on everybody and I saw him coming. I lifted at least 10 car lengths before where I would normally lift and he drove in there at 165 miles per hour and cleaned us out."
Vickers said he was surprised that Kenseth had lifted off the gas pedal and in no way was trying to get back at him.
"If he wants to doubt us, that's fine," Vickers said. "He wrecked me at Martinsville, he got wrecked here, but it actually wasn't (payback). I'm not saying I wasn't going to pay him back, but I'm just saying that wasn't it. He just lifted halfway down the backstretch and the (No.) 9 was on my inside."
The wreck at Martinsville didn't bring any repercussions from NASCAR and the latest incident appears likely to go unpunished as well — despite its hardline approach to Kyle Busch's intentional wreck of Hornaday in the Trucks Series race at Texas last week.
"Had we felt it was more than a racing incident, we would have reacted," Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said.
Kenseth wasn't happy NASCAR didn't penalize Vickers.
"It was so premeditated, it just surprises me that they didn't do anything," he said. "I am disappointed, but I expected it."
JOHNSON'S STREAK OVER
One of the greatest runs in auto racing history came to an end when Jimmie Johnson was officially eliminated from the Sprint Cup Chase for the championship.
Johnson made this year's Chase after an unprecedented run of five straight Sprint Cup titles and was still mathematically alive headed into Phoenix, 55 points behind leader Carl Edwards in sixth.
His string of titles came to an end on Sunday, when he finished 14th while Edwards and Tony Stewart were 2-3.
"I'm definitely disappointed that we won't be able to go to Homestead and race for our sixth, but that's motorsports," Johnson said. "It's a very tough business. What we did over the last five years was absolutely spectacular."
Edwards leads Stewart by three points heading into the season finale at Homestead next week. All other drivers have been eliminated from the Chase race.
KURT BUSCH'S TROUBLES
Kyle wasn't the only Busch who ran into trouble at Phoenix.
His brother, Kurt, started 17th and worked his way toward the front, leading for 57 laps deep into the race.
Busch got up there thanks to a pit strategy of taking just two tires, but, in the process, apparently didn't fill the gas tank all the way.
Leading with just over 30 laps left, Busch got a call from his crew chief to come in to get gas. Within a few seconds, he did run out of gas and had to limp into the pits, where he cost himself more time by stalling the car.
In case that wasn't enough, Busch didn't have a tachometer and was penalized for speeding into pit road. He finished 22nd.
"We went from first to 26th, all in just making a green-flag pit stop. It was just an incredible turn of events," Busch said. I think we had the car to be in Victory Lane."
The pit crew for David Ragan filled in for A.J. Allmendinger for his final two pit stops after his crew had a gaffe that cost him several spots in the middle of the race. Allmendinger finished sixth. ... Kasey Kahne's win gave Toyota its first Sprint Cup victory at Phoenix. ... Edwards has 10 top-10 finishes in 15 races at PIR.